All Eyes on You

Someone is always watching… and listening…

Search engines and major shopping outlets have found ways to look at users’ interests and activity tmakeuseofuso determine what types of ads to show them. By looking at the users’ purchases and online searches, these marketers customize the ads they show the individual users to make sure the ads are relevant. So if you spend a lot of time looking at red shoes, you’re going to get ads for similar, red shoes. While it seems helpful, some people are less than thrilled about the tactics behind how they find the information to personalize these ads.

The first story I ever heard about this was so #OldSchool that the ads were actually sent by mail.  A single dad got ads in the mail from Target that were seemingly geared towards expected mothers. Outraged, since his daughter was only 16 at the time, the man complained to Target that these types of ads only encouraged his sweet, innocent daughter to engage in sexual activity.  When the daughter caught wind of the whole situation, she broke it to her dad that his innocent little girl was about to be a momma, and he was about to be a Grandpa. But how did Target know?  After assessing the teens’ recent purchases, which included scent-free soaps and an array of vitamins, Target’s data system associated the purchased with pregnancy. They went ahead and sent the expecting teen coupons for baby clothes, bottles, formula, etc., all of which she would need in the upcoming months.

While this was the first I heard of this, it has only escalated since then. Online advertisers look at what content users look at, where they spend their time online, search words, ads they’ve clicked on, and products they’ve browsed.  I’ve even heard of people talking with their friends about Spring Break vacation destinations, and then that destination being the first option in their search bar on Google, or appear in an ad they see on Facebook. Some people even turn Siri capabilities off on their iPhone because they are wigged out at the thought of people listening.

I see how people think it’s creepy.  Who is really listening? What else could they be hearing? Do they hear everything we’re saying (probably so)? What could they do with the information they hear about us? The opportunities for these sneaky listeners to embarrass or use our personal information are endless. While the majority of people want ads to be relevant to their wants and needs, 68% pf people say they don’t want their searches and online activity to be tracked. But in my opinion, as long as this information is only used for providing relevant ads, I’m fine with it. But I’m also overly trustworthy of people I don’t know, guilty of leaving my front door unlocked on countless occasions and giving money to the man on the side of the road with a sign, assuming he really is using it to get on a bus.

Instead of seeing it as creepy, I changed my lens to see it as cool.. and it IS. If we’re going to get coupons and ads, shouldn’t we want them to be relevant to stuff we actually want? Give me coupons for hot wheels and lawn mowers and I’m throwing them right in the trash.  Give me coupons for makeup and cute leggings, I’ll probably visit your store and use them.

While I don’t hope to announce my pregnancy by receiving coupons for baby material, I am a supporter of these creepy marketers listening to my intimate conversations in order to keep my ads relevant and useful. Hell, I’d even like to meet them, they probably know me better than my friends do…

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